A SOUTH Tyneside councillor has demanded the operator of the Metro system improve its performance after a series of recent service delays.
The criticism of DB Regio from Coun Gladys Hobson, the borough’s representative on the region’s Combined Authority transport committee, comes after trains ground to a halt early this week and on Thursday of last week.
Passengers faced the long delays twice in a matter of days as a result of power cuts.
Meanwhile, Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group (TWPTUG) says complaints over the level of service have become more frequent in recent times, particularly regarding delays and disruption across the entire network.
Coun Hobson said she had been “very disappointed” at the delays experienced by customers and has raised her concerns directly to Tobyn Hughes, the new managing director for transport operations with Metro owners Nexus.
And she has questioned the quality of service being offered by DB Regio, the operator of the light rail system. She said: “There have been a lot of delays and the system has simply not been working as well as it should be.
“I understand that it is one or two trains down because of the ongoing refurbishment, but DB Regio has got to get to grips with this quickly. It is simply not satisfactory.
“Customers are losing time and money. There are issues with the track and overhead lines that need to be addressed.
“At the end of the day the Government made Nexus put the contract out to tender. Nexus is providing a good service, but if DB Regio is not fulfilling its contract that’s something we will have to look at.”
Vicki Gilbert, chairwoman of the TWPTUG, added: “We have also seen the recent hike in fares. People must be very angry at the poor service they are getting for their hard-earned money.
“However, at the heart of this issue is the need for reliability, and every user, whether travelling to work, school, shops or to care, just cannot rely upon the service at present. Transport, like NHS, is a vital social service.
“We have concerns about the imbalance between the interests – profits – of the shareholders of these companies and the needs of the public who rely on the service; in this case, the Metro passenger.”
Sharon Kelly, managing director at DB Regio, which operates the Metro on behalf of Nexus, said: “We fully understand that the recent reliability of our service has left passengers feeling frustrated. Major disruption and delay is something that all of us at DB Regio work tirelessly to avoid. However, circumstances such as severe weather and power cuts, sometimes hamper our best efforts.
“We strive to deliver the best service possible for our passengers, and are just as disappointed when we don’t meet customer expectations. We thank passengers for their continued understanding and apologise for the inconvenience caused.”
Tobyn Hughes, managing director for transport operations at the North East Combined Authority and Nexus, said: “I accept that the standard of the Metro service of late has not been as high as it should be, and I know that our customers are unhappy.
“Recent performance has not been acceptable and I apologise unreservedly for this. We are working hard with our operator, DB Regio, to make improvements which I am confident will see performing getting back to the level of service they expect from Metro.”
Nexus has a contract with DB Regio to operate Metro and manage stations, any issues with Metro performance sees the company face payment penalties.